South Korea's historic villages: Hahoe and Yangdong

South Korea's historic villages: Hahoe and Yangdong are recognized by UNESCO as World Cultural Heritage Sites in 2010.

Hahoe and Yangdong are considered to be the two most representative historic family villages in Korea. Two villages are located in the Southeast of the country, surrounded by mountains and forests, containing the unique culture of the Confucian aristocracy in the early stages of Korean history. Like many other villages, the ancient villages of Hanoe and Yangdong consist of many houses including houses for the aristocracy and the second class. The aristocratic house was built of wood while the second house was made of mud and soil. 

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Hahoe village is a village with many cultural and historical values of Korea. The village is located in Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do, near Namsan Mountain. Overall, the village looks like a lotus flower. 

Yangdong village was built between the 14th and 15th centuries and located in the northeast of Gyeongju city. Yangdong village is considered one of the two most historic villages which represent clans in Korea. The layout and location of these villages, like the Hahoe, are surrounded by mountains overgrown with trees, facing a river and open fields - showing the unique culture of Confucian aristocracy in the early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). 

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Although Gyeongju was the capital of the ancient Silla kingdom thousands of years ago, Yangdong village exhibited the characteristics of the Joseon Dynasty 550 years ago. And to say, this is where we will see the history and culture of Joseon in Silla. Like Hahoe village, Yangdong is also a village of a family based on Confucian culture.

However, these two villages have different things: Hahoe village was built by the Ryu family, who left their original land for better living. They came to this place, established the hometown, and Hahoe village was born there. Yangdong shows a Korean tradition of marriage, when a man married and then went to their wives' village to live. Thus, the village was established before customs and habits of Confucianism were introduced into Korean society. 

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At the time of Yangdong village’s development, there were 360 households with more than 2,500 people, but now there are only 144 households with more than 400 inhabitants. Among them, 80 households are the Lee family of Yeogang and 18 are the original Sohn family in Wolseong. The Lee and Sohn families built their houses in different directions so as not to move in the same direction. 

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Coming to Yangdong village in Gyeongju, the first thing that hits the visitor's eyes are the houses built on the mountain. The house of the nobles was built on high, and in the surrounding lowlands were the houses of ordinary people, showing the orderly hierarchy of the Joseon Dynasty, when society had class stratification. 

With their unique architecture, landscape and long history, the Yangdong and Hahoe villages have become so attractive in the eyes of visitors. Some families in these ancient villages have opened the door to provide services to tourists. 

By: Oralie Smith

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